English majors go national

Meet the student presenters

Several English majors have been selected to present their research at this year’s National Conference on Undergraduate Research. The conference aims to create a unique environment for the celebration and promotion of undergraduate student achievement, provides models of exemplary research and scholarship, and helps to improve the state of undergraduate education. This year, the conference will be held at University of Memphis, in Tennessee, on April 6-8, 2017.

Kathryn Harlan-Gran ’17

ncur-blog_kat-harlan-granMajor: English (soon to be Spanish as well) with minors in writing and gender studies

Hometown: Modesto, CA

What is your research about?

The ways in which the performance of Shakespeare’s plays brings to light details in the text that might be easily glossed over in written form, particularly with regards to gender. In other words, I have studied live performances of Shakespeare to analyze the way that gender roles and dynamics reveal themselves onstage.

What initially interested you about researching this topic?

I have been passionate about live theater since I was a child, and a particularly spectacular performance of Much Ado About Nothing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s 2015 season caught my attention. The way in which they performed love and desire, expected gender roles and their destined ends, and gendered obligations captivated me and inspired me to look more deeply at the relationship between written text and staged product.

How did your education at Pacific prepare you for this experience?

My background as an English major with a gender studies minor set me up perfectly to critically consider work in this manner. The education I have received here at Pacific has provided me with an ideal set of tools to analyze literature through various lenses of critical theory and synthesize my observations in such a way that I can derive valuable insights from them.

Were any Pacific faculty, staff, or courses particularly helpful?

Dr. Lehmann, a Shakespeare scholar, oversaw my project and helped connect me with invaluable resources that I used in researching work done in the field at large. Classes such as Intro to Gender Studies with Professor Roberts-Camps, Critical Colloquium with Dr. Norton, and, of course, Dr. Lehmann’s Shakespeare class were all invaluable in shaping my perceptions of the works I chose to study.

Ashley Pham ’18

ncur-blog_ashley-phamMajor: English major, Teaching professions/Ethnic studies minors

Hometown: Fountain Valley, CA

What is your research about?

The struggle for identity as an Asian-American based on two novels: When the Emperor was Divine and The Gangster We Are All Looking For.

What initially interested you about researching this topic?

Despite being an essay assignment in Asian American Literature (ENGL 161), I created this prompt specifically because I could identify with the novels we were reading as an Asian American born from immigrant parents myself.

How did your education at Pacific prepare you for the experience?

Pacific never fails to continually expose me to different experiences, from seeing my first play to going to Oregon for the first time. For an undergraduate conference specifically, I feel that all my English courses and the respective teachers have encouraged students to research and delve into their strengths.

Were any Pacific faculty, staff, or courses particularly helpful?

Dr. Zhou, being the ENGL 161 instructor and my minor advisor, has been especially helpful in not only the development of my research but also as a challenger and motivator to get the most out of my college education.

Natasha Popowich ’17

ncur-blog_natasha-popowichMajor: English with double minors in Gender Studies and Pre-Law

Hometown: Winnetka, CA

What is your research about?

My research is about the way in which traditionally unrepresented groups of people have actively worked to combat the predominant narrative of society that tends to be written by those in power and of a caucasian background. This reworking of the narrative is explored through these groups’ creation of literature, music, movies, etc. to re-include themselves in the original story from their perspective. I also examine how this ultimately plays out in the current political climate following the 2016 election and inauguration of Donald Trump.

What initially interested you about researching this topic?

I have always been interested in the way which African Americans express themselves after a history of suffering and with their continued perseverance despite these events. After taking a course at Pacific, I started to formulate a presentation based on the way in which music in the African American culture has been used to actively protest injustice, celebrate black culture, and encourage conversation across a broader range of Americans. The following semester, I took a class that focused on a similar idea from an Asian American perspective, which pushed to meld the two ideas together and present it as a larger understanding of how multiple groups face the issue of being expunged from their own stories to fit the white lens of history.

How did your education at Pacific prepare you for this experience?

Well my professors have been the ones to push me to explore presenting my research and have encouraged me to delve deeper into topics that gauge my interest.

Were any Pacific faculty, staff, or courses particularly helpful?

Two professors that have been particularly helpful to me were Dr. Dobbs and Dr. Zhou.

Victoria Rodriguez ’18

ncur-blog_victoria-rodriguezMajor: Film Studies major with a double minor in ethnic studies and music management

Hometown: Modesto, CA

What is your research about?

The research that I did for my paper was about assimilation in America and how it is a false notion. Specifically I looked at evidence of Asian Americans through the lens of two novels: When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka and The Gangster We Are All Looking For by Le Thi Diem Thuy. The first looks at the experience of an unnamed Japanese American family who was incarcerated during WWII in spite of the fact that they were American citizens and the children were born in the United States. The second looks at the experience of Vietnamese refugees who came to America during the war in Vietnam. In both cases these families were excluded from American life and were not treated as American citizens due to their ancestry and their identification by white Americans as “outsiders.”

What initially interested you about researching this topic?

My research began due to my presence in a course entitled Asian American Literature. We read both novels in class and looked at the notion of assimilation through the perspectives of Asian Americans throughout history. My interest specifically in the myth of assimilation stems from the notion that America was built upon the idea that anyone can become American, that this was a country for those who have been outcasted and oppressed; however, it became a country where only those who were considered white could be American and all “others” were excluded.

How did your education at Pacific prepare you for this experience?

My education at Pacific was extremely vital to this research project and my involvement in the 2017 NCUR. The topic and ideology behind my research stemmed from a course that I attended here at Pacific, and I was introduced to the conference by Pacific as well.

Were any Pacific faculty, staff, or courses particularly helpful?

My project was bettered by the aid I received from my mentor, Dr. Zhou.

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